Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ballona Wetlands and the Beach

On a whim, I visited the Ballona Freshwater Marsh today.. I've driven by, but never stopped and walked around the little trail they've set up. For as close as it is to Lincoln Boulevard and awful Playa del Rey, it looks pretty nice! And I saw a lot of wildlife. It's going to look even nicer in a few years, once the little trees that are supposed to shield it from the street grow bigger.

The beach just south of Marina del Rey.  Free parking!

On the way home, I noticed the new Sprouts Farmers Market in Culver City! Apparently it was the last day of their grand opening sale, so I picked up a few things and generally wandered around to get a feel for the store. It's pretty cool- kind of a mix of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in size and style of products; lots of awesome bulk products (dried fruit, nuts, beans, rice, grains, etc), great-smelling coffee (lots of Fair Trade, organic, shade grown), produce (some local, some not), pretty much every category of grocery. The seafood selection was not great sustainability-wise, or very big. They did have lots of tasty cheeses- I'm enjoying a smoked Gouda right now. 

As much as I love Trader Joe's, it's nice to have an alternative, and this place is a lot bigger and can serve more needs. I can't really speak for the prices yet because their opening sale obviously made things significantly cheaper than normal. We'll see. It's probably no further from me than the nearest Whole Foods, so I'll definitely be shopping here on occasion.

Friday, June 25, 2010

75%(ish) Farmers' Market Meal

Grilled snapper with mango salsa, black beans, squash and bell peppers

Last Tuesday I stopped at the Culver City Farmers' Market on my way home, with no list or specific items in mind. I love how ingredients sometimes come together perfectly of their own accord. On days like this I usually weave a path through the market, eyeing what new produce is available this week and munching on free samples. I take a look at the seafood board, scanning the list for good deals. The fish guy is one of my favorite market people- New York accent, really friendly and helpful, always joking around with the French cheese guy(whose wares unfortunately I can rarely afford). Having decided on the snapper, I stroll around and pick up other stuff- Rainier cherries, onions and garlic, Yukon Gold potatoes, some salad greens. It turns out the greens people are getting pretty tired of the guy who plays kids' reggae right in front of their booth every week. Fair enough, but it does seem to keep the kids occupied and in one spot so I don't have to trip over them.

For the above-pictured meal, this is what I picked up at the market:

Fresh snapper: $7/pound; I spent $5.50 on enough for 2 people
Squash and bell peppers: one bag of each for $3 total
Onions, garlic, cilantro: a couple dollars
Mandarin oranges: 5lb sack for ~$5

Non-market additions: black beans(canned, ~$1) and mango(from our little local Latin market, ~$1).

No real recipe, as usual, but here's a quick breakdown, in order of how things were prepared:

Grilled Snapper with Mango Salsa and Veggies

-Mango salsa: chop mango, onions, garlic, cilantro, chile if desired; mix together, add salt and pepper, let it marinate in the fridge while you prepare everything else.
-Black beans: sautee onions, peppers, and garlic; add beans(I used canned) and broth or water and seasonings(cumin, bay leaves, etc), simmer indefinitely; just make sure to check the water level so they don't dry out.
-Squash and peppers: slice, add salt and pepper(and chili powder if desired), sautee in olive oil for a few minutes. I like to keep veggies crunchy, for flavor and nutrition.
-Snapper: remove bones if you can, rub with chili powder, grill on a hot cast iron skillet to taste, no more than 8 or so minutes. Taste a little piece to check done-ness. With fish, you never want to overcook it! Undercook ALWAYS. Raw fish isn't just for sushi, don't fear it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"smells like freshly ground heaven"

Home coffee roasting. My newest passion and frustration.
Until I scrape together the couple hundred bucks to buy a roasting machine, which will vastly improve the quality of my roast, I've been using a stovetop popcorn popper. At first I attempted to use the popper's hand crank, but today I just gave up on it and decided to hand-stir it like I saw it done in Nicaragua. I felt like I got a much more even roast that way.

The insanely high temperatures required.
My very simple setup.

During roasting.
Finished product!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sprout Evolution

My little lettuce sprouts coming in! (mid-left)

Same lettuce, later.

The squirrel who occasionally disturbs my plants.

Folding some 100+ homemade bowties.. an oddly meditative task.